The Seesaw of Emotional Healing

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Next week we’ll begin talking about gratitude, but before we go there, I realize I need to spend one more week talking about the previous topic presented. (If you did not read “Reflection on Me Too,” I encourage you to do so as it ties into this.) The amount of response I received was truly humbling, but it also left me with a heaviness knowing there is so much brokenness even among my friends and acquaintances. Maybe one day, if God gives me the strength, I will write a book. But for now, another post will have to suffice.

Even for some of you, my focus on healing might have been too much. I understand that because for years (and that’s no exaggeration) I was there. So if that is you, then this blog post was written specifically with you in mind. For a long time “healing” was my least favorite word. Seriously. When I even heard someone talking about emotional healing (in whatever context) I would either cringe or inwardly scoff. Or if someone compared hanging onto the past like the need to rip off a Band-Aid, I just wanted to punch that person in the face. I’m serious. My wall was built high and my wall was strong.

In regards to healing, we have all heard the all too common phrase: “time heals all wounds.” Because this is such a popular thing, I felt the need to briefly touch on it. So. From the little I know and have experienced, time does not heal all wounds. Some yes, but not all, and especially not the deepest kinds. You may disagree, and if that phrase is true for you, then I am glad. But with sexual abuse I don’t advise banking on this phrase to end up ringing true. What time does however, is it brings more distance between your current state and your past trauma. Time blurs some things and makes some moments seem not quite as intense. Time allows you to be able to hear someone say his name, and you won’t feel like you’re about to have a panic attack. But healing is deeper than these things. Healing takes more than time. As I said last week, healing requires attention, effort and dedication. All of which cannot be done without the help of God.

I took some theatre classes in college where we used Freytag’s Pyramid to break down stories. The five parts needed to create a good story are: Exposition (setting of the story), Rising Action, Climax (major altering event aka big issues), Falling Action (issues begin to resolve), and Dénouement (resolution).

Freytag-Pyramid

As Christians, we can see this pattern in the Freytag’s Pyramid play out in every good story, yet deeply connected to the Gospel. How about we break down stories into four parts: Creation (the beginning part of your life, or a season that was really good) Fall (in this example, sexual abuse) Redemption (healing taking place) and Restoration (united with Christ in the new heavens and earth).

As Christians we live in the reality of today (containing evil and good) with the eternal hope we have in Christ that one day He will make all things right. It’s a balance and sometimes a tedious one; just like riding a seesaw. Our view changes depending on how high up or how low to the ground we are. But even in our darkest moments, we have something to hold onto…the hope of the Gospel.

If you are one of the people I addressed at the beginning of this post, please hold on. Each story varies in length between Are You My Mother and Les Misérable. The season of life you are in is not over. You are teetering in a place just beyond the Fall, yet before Restoration. I don’t know a lot, and I don’t know how long your seasonal story will be, but I do know this. Stories – good stories – have to go through each of the steps above before they are finished.

I know it’s the farthest thing from fun to feel stuck in this position somewhere between the Fall and Restoration in your story. No child is ok with being stuck sitting level on a seesaw for very long. Their favorite part is getting pushed up high to catch a different and better view.

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My friend, I realize you are deeply scarred, and you want to be better, but you are scared. You question whether or not you will ever get past your past. So first I want to affirm these emotions and say it’s honestly ok to feel this way for a season. There is no timeline to this process of healing, and you are not racing against someone else. However, my desire is to be your partner on this seesaw of emotional healing…to be that one who can help you get from feeling stuck to pushing you higher to catch a better view. My prayer for you as that one day soon, you will be in the position where you ‘saw’ your past, but you are ‘seeing’ God’s redemptive work in your life. So during this teetering stage, from saw to see, I want to encourage three things:

1) Allow yourself to fully feel your hurt and acknowledge where you are in the process.

2) Cling to God and the hope we have in the Gospel, and that our story is not over.

3) Realize where you want to go and make your battle plan.

1.) During one of my counseling sessions early on, my counselor and I realized I was not allowing myself to fully feel the pain and battle within me. I was reserved for so long because I was scared and I didn’t know how to handle myself. But you see, darkness cannot be rid of unless it’s exposed to the light. My counselor showed me this video clip from a well-known movie. It impacted me deeply enough that I wanted to share it here because this clip helped me relate. When I was able to see someone else’s angry pain, I was better able to see my own. This short clip began the process of pulling back the curtain of my ugly mess within.

Our flesh does say there aren’t enough rocks. There really aren’t. So get yourself in a safe place, with a safe person, and allow yourself to feel. Done right, you’ll end up a hot mess.

2.) But because of the rocks we have, the more opportunities we have to see God redeem our story. We have to be real with ourselves, and honest with God about our pain. Only then will our hearts be ready for God to begin a transformation in our lives.

Below are just a handful of Scriptures that were pivotal in my life during my seesawing stage from the Fall to Redemption.

Psalm 103 kind of became my “battle Psalm.” It’s a beautiful reminder of what God has done and continues to do for us, and how much He cares for us as His children.

Verses 2-5 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Wow. I am called to bless the Lord because yes, he has done everything for me. A pit perfectly parallels what I felt like I was stuck in for so long – a deep dark pit with absolutely no way to get out. But my God redeems my life from that. He then crowns me. What?!? Only important and special people get crowns, right? But I get one too! And it gets better. He satisfies me with good…GOOD. And the trauma happened in my youth. God’s in the business of renewal and one day I’ll be able to fly again.

Verse 13 “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”

My God is compassionate. He cares deeply about me and my pain.

Verse 17 “But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children.”

We cannot even imagine what ‘everlasting to everlasting’ looks like. Because that’s like infinity and there’s a reason why the infinity symbol has no beginning and no end. And that’s His love for us. It’s not only unwavering because that’s what steadfast means, but it’s also unending. And guess what? He cares about our future and our children too.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God gives us moment by moment grace. We feel weak, but our weakness is an opportunity for the power of God to be revealed in our lives, and in the lives of others.

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.”

Sexual abuse attacks you at your core. It attacks everything about who you are. Going back to the basics can be key. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are unique individuals with a specific calling on our life that no one else can do. You are you and I am me for a reason. That is a wonderful work to rejoice in.

Deuteronomy 1:30 “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you.”

God knows our battle more than anyone. But get this – He not only fights for us, on our behalf, but he goes before us. He leads the way on the path towards true emotional healing. Because He leads the way, we know it is safe to keep walking.

With the amount of brokenness in your life right now, picking up the Bible can be intimidating, as you may be unsure of where to go. My encouragement would be start with one of these Scriptures above, and then go to the Psalms. But really, whatever floats your boat…as long as you are soaking up Truth!

3.) As you may have noticed by now, I’m all about application. If you hear something, great, but if you don’t apply it, then it’s going to do you no good.

Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is not vision the people perish.”

I really want to encourage you to take a step and create your vision. Get out that journal you began last week (right?) and write your vision. What steps are you going to take to help you go from saw to see, from the Fall (your own experience of sexual abuse) to Redemption (your own story of emotional healing)? Right now you may be stuck level, but by making a vision, you believe that there is a better view waiting for you. This view that can only be seen because of the courage you have in pushing with all your strength to be at the high point on the seesaw…the point where God’s redemption is what you see and your past is what you saw.

From someone who knows, please believe me that hope is not empty. Emotional healing is on the way. Hugs to you, my friend. You are braver than you think.

Reflection on “Me Too”

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The hashtag began trending on Social Media platforms earlier this week. Normally I’m not one to “jump on the bandwagon” or keep up with all the trends. But I stared at my computer screen and something urged within me. I felt as though this was too important not to pass me by. Unfortunately, the two words resonated within me. Me too.

I will not waste your precious time to go into any details because I am not the one I want you to focus on. There is something of far greater importance than using Instagram to echo the cries of so many. Even as I wrote the words “Me Too,” I knew I could not stop there. There is something I am compelled to share, and I am daft to keep it from anyone. Please, do not let this pass you by.

It happened when I was a teen. I grew up conservative and was taught to save even my first kiss for my wedding day. I was a “good girl.” You may laugh, but I have never owned skinny jeans or a bikini. But did this make a difference in sparing me from the invasive situations? (Yes, more than one.) Heck no. Sometimes life spins completely out of your control.

I know what it’s like to secretly live in shame. I know what it’s like to, for years on end, to buy into the lie that it was my fault. I know what it’s like to completely loose trust in guys, and have the pounding in my chest if a guy even stood too close to me. I know what it’s like to look into the face of my boyfriend (now husband) and relay the entire story – fearing that I would be risking an end of our relationship.

If I could hug each of you who said “Me Too,” I would. But I can’t. But what I can do is more important than any hug.

There is hope. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that there is healing – for all of us. Trust me, for the longest time I did not think this was possible. But it is. Will we ever be the same? No. Our pasts mold us into the person we’ve become, and shape our view on the world and each other. But that was our past. We do not live there anymore.

I know what it’s like to take a step. I know what it’s like to hope again that life could get better. I know what it’s like to take my guard down, and let a worship song leave me weeping with the realization that in God’s eyes, I am flawless. I know what it’s like to have a conversation with a professional counselor that leaves me sobbing like a two year old. I know what it’s like to feel completely broken…broken so that the love of God could flow freer in my life than it ever had before. I know what it’s like to have a dark cloud and a weight lifted. I know what it’s like to be able to look at my naked body again without shame. I know what it’s like to cry out to God and have a deeper relationship with Him than I ever anticipated. Friend, I’m telling you these things because I want them for you.

I am going to be frank and say two things. #1 If you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do so. I do not know how anyone can find true healing from such offenses without Him. #2 Healing does not happen overnight or even over a span of six months. There is not a timeframe on healing, but know that the end goal is worth any length of wait! It takes patience but it also takes active work.

Everyone is different. Every story is unique. But I want to share some tools that helped empower me for the healing process to begin.

  • Pray. I cannot stress this point enough. There were so many times during this process I felt as if I was suffocating and Jesus was my only lifeline. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
  • Seek professional counseling. This takes courage. I’m not saying that to show you I was brave. I’m saying that because I was terrified to go to counseling, but I was desperate. The emotional and psychological ramifications are serious. I know it’s expensive, but the lessons learned are life changing and life lasting. I recommend finding a Christian professional counselor who deals with sexual issues. Please, not just a pastor or mentor. They have their place, but maybe not here.
  • Memorize Scripture. You are currently in bondage from your past, and Satan doesn’t want you to experience full freedom in Christ. I have never felt Spiritual warfare to be more real and present before or since then. Having Scripture to combat Satan’s lies was key to survival for me.
  • Tell trusted family and friends. This not only takes courage, but also discernment. You need to be prepared for the variety of responses you will receive. However, finding people who you can be vulnerable with, and who will pray and check up on you is huge. Keep in mind that I used the word “trusted” here and not “all” your family and friends. You will know the person/people you need.
  • Journal. You’re going to go through every possible emotion during this process. (I do not have a punching bag at home, but I do have paper and pens.) J
  • Have Scripture put up in prevalent places. My bathroom mirror is lined with sticky notes of verses, for example. Again, spiritual warfare is real, and you need to be ready.
  • Smile at your naked (yes naked) self in the mirror and tell yourself, “I like the way I look.” Do this repetitively until the day you can genuinely feel that way again.

I pray blessings upon each of you, my friends. You are a child of God, flawless in His eyes. You are precious and deserve to be cherished and loved. My prayer is that God will strengthen you for this process of healing. May you be encouraged daily by the truth that He loves you, He is for you, He comforts you, and He fights for you. Maybe one day “me too” won’t be an echo of pain. Maybe one day “me too” will be an echo of joy because God has made us whole.     Continue reading